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Taking it personally
Designers say the trend in kitchens is to make the space a reflection of you


Conveniences such as refrigeration drawers and pot filler faucets are among the amenities people favor in kitchens today. Islands continue to be at the top of peopleís must-have list, area designers say.

Fireplaces, lounge areas, mood lighting and plasma TVs. Area designers say these are the features their clients want in the most-used room of the house, the kitchen. Of course, traditional kitchen elements such as refrigerators, stoves and dishwashers still have their place, and experts say people are personalizing those, too.

"People used to gravitate toward one style, but now they are more eclectic and design their personality into the room," says Colleen Craig, designer for The Kitchen Center. "Since the kitchen is the heart of the home, it should show who you are."

Kristin Warltier, designer for Trifecta LLC, says she finds kitchen layouts getting larger, the technology getting savvier and the color and materials selections making more of a design impact. "Kitchens are brainier, bigger and bolder," Warltier says.

Russ Waters of Wisconsin Kitchen Mart agrees: "Function is just as important as aesthetics."

Hereís what is hot now in Milwaukee area kitchen design and what we can expect to see in the very near future.

Comfortable, larger spaces

When space is not a consideration, kitchens are getting larger. Even in small spaces, designers are helping clients create illusions of spaciousness. Warltier says the trend is toward a more comfortable kitchen. That does not always mean that the space includes a dinette area. Now people are incorporating fireplaces or lounge seating. Designer David Lyon says seating areas with comfy chairs are being worked into the kitchen.

Under-mounted televisions and computers are making their way into kitchens. (Photo courtesy of Hi-Tech Homes)

Marianne Kohlmann, RCI-Remodeling Center Inc., says lounge areas and even café settings are becoming a predominant feature in the kitchen.

Lyon predicts that the concept of one large, open kitchen and family area will fade away and return to a more formal kitchen and butlerís pantry. Even though a seating area will remain, the feeling is that the main dining area will once again be separated, he says.

Blair Williams, vice president of development for Mandel Group, agrees with Lyon. He says the kitchen will remain the soul of the home, but a renewed appreciation for a more formal dining room experience will resurface.

Islands as gathering places

Lyon says the trend toward kitchen islands remains strong. "In various shapes and sizes and serving various functions, islands are without a doubt at the top of a clientís want list," he says.

Kohlmann agrees. "Islands or peninsulas are very popular," she says. "People want gathering spots and are looking for ways to connect the kitchen to other rooms."

Mood lighting

Designers agree that lighting is playing a key role in the kitchen. A variety of light sources from under cabinet and down lights, to tracks and decorative pendants are being incorporated. Dimmers and smart control panels allow owners to create various moods within the space while shedding plenty of light for getting the work done. Donít forget sources of natural light, too. Windows, glass doors and skylights are being worked into these rooms to flood the area with natural light, so even the smallest space appears open and airy.

"Mood lighting is important," Kohlmann says. In addition, she says people are paying more attention to ceilings in order to add another dimension to the space, including the addition of skylights. Cathedral ceilings, coffers and soffit details are also prevalent.

Alan Freysinger of Design Group Three points to the use of decorative pendants as focal points above islands. He attributes the attention to proper lighting as a result of the aging of America and the increased amount of time people spend in the kitchen.

These designers find that lighting design within the kitchen will continue to be a strong trend in the future. Watch for more lighting within cabinets to highlight glass and art. Lyon also predicts the integration of under-counter lighting to illuminate countertops.

This pull out spice rack by Wood-Mode is one of the creative ways to maximize storage space in the kitchen.

Integrating technology

Warltier notes that some clients are incorporating Internet technology into the kitchen. Some are mounting flip-down screens under cabinets. The touch screens allow easy access to recipes and other information.

In addition, she says, plasma screen televisions are making their way to the kitchen.

While these technologies may seem elite, they are part of the future of kitchens. The efficiency and convenience of a variety of kitchen appliances is an area consumers currently find worth the investment.

Specialty appliances

According to Freysinger, pot filler faucets continue to be a convenience that many clients integrate into their space. Espresso machines, warming drawers, steaming drawers, larger ranges and ovens are other key appliances currently popular.

Lyon notes that people are rethinking refrigeration systems and considering different drawer options. He also describes the construction of many drawers and cabinets as having self-closing features or extra-strength hinges and glides to hold heavier items.

Work zones

Williams predicts people will downsize their major appliances and incorporate more of the drawer systems to allow for convenient locations in key work zones.

The idea of key work zones vs. a transitional working triangle is a current trend and one that continues to develop. People are recognizing their work habits and organizing their kitchens to meet those needs. It is not just about having an island so guests can gather and watch the chef. It is about how the space can be organized to accommodate multiple people lending a hand and enjoying the process. Prep zones, cooking zones and cleanup areas are part of this design. In fact, you may find multiple cook tops, ovens or even dishwashers in order to meet the needs of each area.

Storage options

Not only are people making their kitchens efficient, they are keeping them clean. They want to enjoy the aesthetics of the space. Storage systems help maximize cabinet space and keep appliances off the countertops. Kohlmann notes the use of gadgets within cabinets such as wine racks, spice racks and pull out pantries. Clever ways to use corner spaces have also been addressed.

Lyon incorporates spice racks that drop down from under the cabinets or appliances that are lifted off the surfaces. He finds the traditional base and wall cabinet applications are disappearing as people rethink storage and find ways to maximize space, even using floor-to-ceiling lazy Susans. Lyon says kitchen ergonomics is a huge trend with considerations being made to raise or lower typical counter heights to accommodate various tasks or personal preferences. And drawers and shelves on glides eliminate a lot of bending.

Countertops, floors and cabinets While the options are endless in this arena, the decision-making has only just begun. Material and finish selections offer endless aesthetic possibilities.

Across the board, people continue to be drawn to stainless steel and the industrial or commercial kitchen appliances such as the restaurant style pull-down faucets. Freysinger notes that some people are looking for ways to disguise the appearance of appliances with panel applications.

Williams says stainless steel is trendy but will lose its staying power along with the super-sized appliances. He predicts consumers will get more size savvy in the future. "There will be a move toward convenience, consistency and efficiency," Williams says.

Some people, according to Warltier, are now opting for a honed or flamed finish to create a different look. Honed granite results in a smooth, dull finish, while a flamed treatment gives a rougher texture with a bit of sheen. She also notes that the shiny stainless is losing popularity to more natural patinas.

Craig notes that her clients most often use granite or a product called Zodiaq for kitchen countertops. Made by DuPont, this is an engineered stone made of natural quartz. Granite has flaws, veining and varying color, so for those who want a completely consistent granite look, she finds Zodiaq to be the answer.

Dark wood tones in maple and cherry as well as painted cabinets are dominant. The designers agree that painted finishes with glazing or antiquing is an option many consider. They want a furniture look to cabinetry rather than the consistent built-in appearance.

These cabinetry details fall in line with the style trends. People seem to be embracing the sleek, modern aesthetic or steering toward a traditional or French country look. Oil-rubbed bronze, weathered brass or copper are used as metal finishes as an alternative to the stainless steel. Future trends will find the increased use of more exotic woods and a mix of lacquer and flat finishes.

Aside from these typical finish selections, many people are experimenting and combining multiple materials. The options are endless, so you may find cork, bamboo or tile for flooring materials. Concrete, tile, soapstone, teak, granite or solid surface materials are considered for countertops. Finally, walls are dressed in color, texture and pattern through the use of a variety of tiles or bold paint colors. You will even find tile murals and mosaic designs incorporated with decorative hoods for focal points within the kitchen. The hoods alone offer a dramatic statement within the room and many people are paying close attention to this design detail.

Williams poses the question: "What about the kitchen makes it special, what makes it personal?" The current trends find people making more educated decisions about their selections from both the functional and aesthetic perspectives, and experts say to look for even more personalization in the future.